Every now and again, I look back at old articles I’ve written. My posts are always triggered by my interactions with sales people, sales managers and sales leaders so it acts as a reminder of the key issues facing sales people at any particular time. It often comes as a shock to find that issues which were relevant some years ago continue to remain, and very often have deepened with time. This is very much the case when it comes to a topic I’ve discussed previously:
What is the hardest thing about selling?
This question guides a lot of the work we do at The TAS Group. It’s critical that we fully understand the challenges sales people face on a day-to-day basis, so we can equip them with the right data and tools to make them more effective.
We regularly survey our customers and other organizations to find out what’s troubling them most. When we posed the question “What’s the hardest thing about selling”, these were voted the biggest challenges:
- How to access key decision makers
- How to earn the customer’s trust on the first call
There is perhaps little surprise here, and in fact salespeople have been facing these two problems since selling began. However, to find a solution, the first step is in realizing the environment has changed significantly in a short period of time.
Buyers are now in the driving seat
Because of advances in mobile and WiFi technologies, the sales process is no longer just in the hands of the seller. Buyers don’t sit idly back and listen intently to the sales teams message; they control the buying cycle so much that in many cases they are as equally informed about a product or service as the sales team themselves.
Information is available at record speed. With a click of a mouse and a tap of your finger, you can research anything, anywhere, and discover as much detail as you need to make your final decision. In many cases contacting a salesperson is just a formality to close the deal, not to rely on them for knowledge and education.
Which significantly changes the role a salesperson plays in today’s environment.
Cold calling, without communicating value, will fail
Getting access to a busy executive or decision maker is difficult enough at the best of times. So if your sales strategy largely consists of cold calling prospects without knowing what problem you’re solving, you’re going to fail.
It’s not that customers don’t want to buy. It’s just that they want to buy from someone who has made the effort to craft a compelling reason for them to do so.
So the whole approach to selling has to change. What you say is equally as important as how you say it. The closer you can do that and meet buyers’ expectations, the more you will win at the new game of sales.
Communicate the value you bring to the table
With an educated buyer, starting at the beginning is no longer necessary. They often have pieced together the details – in some cases, better than you.
What they don’t have is the extensive knowledge only you can provide. Try giving a buyer an idea you’ve acquired through working with customers in similar circumstances, ideas they wouldn’t understand without having your knowledge in place. That’s where a buyer starts seeing value in what you have to offer. That’s where their opinion of you begins to change.
If you don’t provide something that is useful, you will be viewed as a distraction. And that’s where a connection can quickly collapse.
Speak your customer’s language
You are the expert. And when a buyer sees you as the problem solver, the solution they’ve been looking for, that’s when the relationship takes on new meaning.
Are you speaking the same language as your customers? Are you resonating with them in every message you create? Are you educating them…or boring them? Today’s sales teams know it’s about education first, sales second. They jump in and become a team member first, salesperson second.
Usefulness equates to trust. Providing reliable feedback – no matter if the sale is completed or not – shows you are there for a potential customer’s best interests, not just for the money. All of that together boosts confidence, and makes them more willing to engage, more willing to take the next step with you.
Trust is difficult if you don’t have a customer’s confidence from the very beginning. So before the conversation starts, consider your process carefully. The more you put into it, the more you listen to their needs and hear what they have to say, the stronger you can build the connection between you in the approach.
I’d be interested to know what you think is the ‘Hardest Part of Selling‘. Please leave your comments below and I’ll use these as the basis for a new post next month.